Survivors on a deserted island.
No hope of rescue.
For the next 30 games, they will be tested beyond their limits.
For the Islanders are . . .
Each player joined this club with hopes of success, but also leaving behind perhaps their troubled past of unfulfilled potentials. They gave themselves to a hostile place that would bring out strengths, yet exploit weakness like they perhaps never expected.
When the All Star break came, the Isles were clinging about the 8th spot. Our survivors who came together over last summer free agency period have been sorely tested. What started off with them banding together, quickly changed in only a few weeks into the season. Ted Nolan mixing lines very early to offput some quick highs to turning to quite a few lows. But the NHL had other ideas. The Isles had to wander into the NHL's schedule jungle, searching for games and how to keep momentum going. The schedule twisted and turned, forcing the Isles to deal with it's whims. Days became weeks between games.
A rocky November beget some soul searching by our castaways. They'd constantly look for things to improve on as the bottom fell out on all the hype and hoopla that they were getting from low expectations at the season's start. What was a lauded Penalty Kill and Powerplay, suddenly shifted to weaknesses. The team seemed confused. The only consistent wins coming from the two local teams of the NYR and NJ.
What was a deep defense only looked more and more shallow as pucks slid by, and opposing forwards seem to be able to get free and open without too much opposition. The Isles goalie sometimes the only man holding the fort as they struggled with themselves and lost faith.
The All Star game came and went, with only one man able to escape the island to show his stuff. The rest of the castaways took the time off. But somewhere along the line, facing the 32 games remaining, they lost themselves and the urgency. They lost the ability to win. They came out of two games into the final stretch looking like Hugo running through the jungle.
The fans are getting hostile and frustrated. Messageboards, emails, and blogs teem with anger and disappointment. Some wait for something to change. Something to happen that just wakes this team up.
Alliances must be forged. Rivalries declared. Somehow this ragtag group must band together to face the perils of the rest of the NHL schedule. A schedule fraught with danger lurking around every corner.
For the NHL schedule is not done with this team. It is the very crucible and crux that will force each player to face the best and worst of themselves. For each man is the mystery that must find its way to definition. Each to be judged by those who can. And what comes will be harder than anything they have faced so far.
It is that which will allow this team to make the playoffs in a conference of many improved teams. And even then, they will have to dig deep in which to bridge the divide between playoff winners and losers.
So, when will this team be found?